Beautiful Native Plants

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

A look back for lessons for the future

A while back, I started scanning the family slides, when I finished my own slides of our kids growing up and various pre-digital life adventures, I started in on my parents' slides. They died in 1995 & 1996, so it was high time to get these images into a digital format. What struck me as I went through my long-ago childhood was how hard they had worked to provide outdoor adventures for us.

I’m looking for birds on a Connecticut beach in the 1950s. Note my leggings and our brand new 51 Ford–we called her the blue flyer.
When we lived in Stamford, I fished in the Rippowam River next to our apartment complex. I’d dig night crawlers from the riverbank for bait and store them in my pockets. While the worms must have been a mess, I was still allowed the freedom to play. Sometimes I even caught something–not sure whether we ate this eel or not. This was 3rd grade–my braids are gone.


Each year we drove to Long Lake in the Adirondacks and camped on an island. That’s me with the braids. I don’t remember the name of the other family, so if you recognize yourself let me know. My parents were Kay and Charles Mallison–my dad was behind the camera.

Each year in the late 1940s and early 1950s, they'd organize a week-long camping trip with another family in the Adirondacks, pack up a humongous amount of gear for the four of us, rent a flat back canoe on Long Lake, and motor out to a campsite on an island. We had a massive canvas tent and all cooking was over a fire. Mom and the other mom would get up earlier than the rest of us, start the fire, fix a pot of percolated coffee (in a blue and white enamel pot), and fix bacon and eggs in an iron skillet.  Meanwhile the men would shave at the lashed table between two trees. We'd all eat breakfast and by the time the dishes were cleaned, it was almost time to start lunch. J Somehow we'd find time for fishing, hiking off the island, bird watching, and story telling around the campfire, which was made eerier by the mournful nighttime cries of the loons.

Camping was hard work in those days.
On the beach of the island in Long Lake. My mom took the time to coordinate our outfits. She loved red. Can you tell?
My catch of the day at Long Lake in the Adirondacks, NY.

Girl Scouts 

Even though Mom had earned a Master's degree in library science, she was a stay at home mom, which was the standard procedure in those days. She was very active in Girl Scouts, not as a leader, but as a nature consultant.  We lived in Stamford CT, and she was know as Kay Nature at Woodlands Day Camp in North Stamford or maybe the next town north. As a librarian, she knew how to find information, so before camp started each summer, she go out to camp and ID all the tree, shrubs, flowers and even the ferns. I was not aware of this when I was a kid, so I assumed that everyone should know all the plants. We shared a laugh decades later when she admitted this strategy to me.
We moved to New Orleans from Stamford for a couple of years and then returned to SW Connecticut when we finally bought our first house in Westport.  There she delved into vegetable gardening and canning. She also had a rock garden on a hillside that had been formed when they cut out a leveled a space for our house. We were the first owners. She said that it was a rock garden for sure because each year there were more rocks.

From brownies through senior scouts I was active in Girl Scouts and went to camp for two weeks in Kent Connecticut for several years. And when I was a junior in high school I was selected to go out to Colorado to the Girls Scout Roundup--it was a two-day train ride out and back. What a great experience that was! I even ran into my friends from New Orleans out there.

In the 1970s with my own kids out in the woods.

When I got married and had my own kids, we took them camping and hiking from a very early age, too. I was a Girl Scout leader for cadet scouts in 7th and 8th grade for several years when my daughter was a baby to pay back the organization for my good times.  Years later, my grandkids have spent many years in 4H including 4H camp and family camping, and so the legacy continues.

So what does this have to do with native plants and wildlife gardens?

Last Child in the Woods 
I firmly believe that people will work to protect what they know and love. I fear that many of today's children are shielded from nature because of technology and overly busy schedules. I know I'm not the first to point this out, but I thought that my personal story might help solidify the idea.

Last Child in the Woods covers the staggering divide between children and the outdoors, child advocacy expert Richard Louv directly links the lack of nature in the lives of today's wired generation—he calls it nature-deficit—to some of the most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression.

Even if you don't have young children or grandkids, you can make a difference.
- Volunteer at a local park doing anything, with state and local budgets being strained, your help can free up staff to accomplish more and many parks remain open only because enough volunteers have stepped up.  We need these parks in place so there is easy access for local families.
- If you have knowledge of plants, birds and other wildlife offer to be a resource person for local schools, community youth groups, and/or churches.
- Speak out at local community association, county and/or town meetings whenever preservation of open land is discussed.

I was appalled when a small town in central Florida sold a 7.5-acre, lakefront park for $1.25million. (The kink to this article is no longer active.)  The town commissioners were giddy with the cash windfall and hoped that they could attract a Home Depot, but how shortsighted. When the money has been spent, where will they find more open space for their citizens, particularly their children?

It's up to us to be lobbyists for Mother Nature and tell the other side of the story to those town/county/state elected officials and their staffs. Normally, they only hear from well-paid lobbyists hired by businesses and developers. 

In the long run…

My parents died before my divorce, second marriage, and move from Maryland to Florida--yes, *things* don't always work out as originally planned. I often wish Mom could see what I'm doing these days. I think she would be gratified that all her hard work to instill a love of nature in me is finally being put to good use. I think of my self as an advocate FOR Mother Nature. Are you?